Friday, April 30, 2010

Poetry Month Wrap-up and Final Form

So how’d you do? Write every form and successfully meet the challenge? Me neither, but it was great fun reading about and researching the forms. Fav video had to be "Sex not Poetry" How awesome is that?!

Anyway, the final form (sniff, cry) is the ruthless rhyme. It’s an English form, reportedly invented by Harry Graham. Not to be confused with extreme rap lyrics, a ruthless rhyme has quatrains, stanzas of four lines apiece, of aggressive verse dealing with the misfortunes, foibles, idiosyncrasies, ect., of various people. It’s mean to be humorous or point fun at the subject and it makes no bones about it. Like I said, four lines, aabb rhyme scheme. Simple and brutal.

So that’s it for poetry month here on Farms and Lit. The results are in, by the way, and since the split was fifty/fifty on poetry or plants, I’ve decided to try splitting the difference. Herb gardening in containers and poetry pertaining to poets, movements, and whatever else strikes my fancy. So there we are. Hope you had a happy, productive poetry month, I know I did. And if anyone is interested in my chapbook, XY Rated, be sure to drop a line.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Brag Poem

So we’re leaving poetry month fast behind us. (Sniff, dabdab) Today’s is the second to last form and it’s the brag poem, or the flyting, if you prefer the Scottish name. It’s a rap battle between poets, with each rhyme-maker spitting insults at the other. Sounds a lot like a rap-battle, doesn’t it? Well the rap battle does have its roots in verbal contests such as these. Several cultures have a version of the flyting, Germanic, Inuit, Japanese, Arabic, they all have culturally unique ways of playing with words to insult people. Pretty cool huh?

The most often cited flyting is the “The Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy” It’s written in old Scots so a read aloud might be easier than quietly to yourself, kind of like with Middle English, it never makes sense when you read it, but read it out loud and suddenly its real words. Crazy.

So I realize it’s a little late in the game, but I have a question for the readers. Again. I was going to switch in May and start blogging on gardening, but I’m having so much fun with poetry that it might be fun to stick with that another month. Let’s hear from you, would you rather learn about gardening the black-thumb way or keep on with the word candy? Drop a comment and I look forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Top Five, Shadorma, and a Question

I’ve got a top five list for you today:

Top 5 Movies about Poetry

No. 5 – Dead Poet’s Society – It has ‘poet’ in the title so there’s some rule that it has to be included.

No. 4 – Byron – BBC television series. Incest, homosexuality, nudity, sodomy, poetry… it’s got it all.

No. 3 – Dangerous Beauty – gotta love the workin’ girls.

No. 2 – Possession – book and movie were both actually equally good. First time EVER!

And the best movie about poetry of all time:

No. 1 – Shakespeare in Love – I don’t care what you say about it, I have guy friends who tear up over this one. Not quite “I don’t know how to quit you” but melodramatic awesomeness.

Form of the day:

In honor of the Bard, today’s form should be the sonnet, but you can find that anywhere (abab cdcd efef gg rhyme scheme in iambic pentameter or “oh SHIT” meter), so instead, we’re going with a Spanish form, which I thought was a Japanese form, but no, my bad. No gold star.

The shadorma is a SPANISH form of poetry, based on syllable count (thus my impression that it was Japanese since there’s such an emphasis on syllables there, but no matter). It’s a 6-line poem with a syllable count of 3/5/3/3/7/5. I got it from Writer’s Digest and Robert Lee Brewer talks about it on Poetic Asides. I couldn’t find much relating to origins or history of this form, though one source mentioned the syllable scheme can be used as stanzas. Shadormas are fun to write, but beware! they are addictive.

And an announcement: I’ve nearly completed a chapbook. (YEY!) It’s not new work, but work I revised from college. I’m interested to know how many readers would be interested in a pdf version of it. It’s a self-publishing/self-promotion scheme but since the format of the book is a little unusual with its mix of poetry, flash fiction, and short stories, I know better than to try sending it to a traditional publisher and it doesn’t read as well (in my opinion) broken up into parts. One of those the end is more than the sum of its parts things. So leave a comment if you’d be interested and we’ll go from there.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Poetic Action

Here’s an example of poetry in action, how it can bring people together, share a story, and inform the world.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Ritualistic Cleansing of Nineteenth Century Academia… or Nothing.

Had to use that title, even though it has absolutely nothing to do with today's post. Such a college answer. And what is more college than haiku, the form of the day? We’ve covered a lot of Western forms of poetry during poetry month, but I’ve purposely shied away from the Eastern ones. Haiku scares me and most of the other forms from Asiatic regions, I can’t pronounce. But perhaps rather than laud my ignorance, it might be better to stare down these strange poetic forms that I don’t understand and share my break down.

The haiku, the type of Japanese poetry most familiar to people, is based on syllable count. I’ve never had much of an ear for meter or syllables so anything based on this, makes me cringe. I have horrific memories of 200-level English and scanning line after line of poetry completely ass-backwards. But I digress.

The haiku is a three-line poem, with a syllable count of either 5/7/5 or 3/5/3, with the theme usually pertaining to nature in some way or another. Abbreviated haiku is even shorter, one with only two lines, 7 / 2 syllables, and the other with three lines of 5/7/5 (regular haiku) or 3/5/3, even as small as 2/3/2. If you can get it down to 1/2/1, you get a prize. Just kidding. But you can feel good about your skills of brevity. Use of metaphor and simile is highly encouraged in Japanese poetry. Apparently, haiku in English is much more flexible than haiku in Japanese and the history of the haiku really only starts after 1890. Fun facts to know and share.

Here’s a fun haiku generator,, but if you want to learn to do it yourself, an additional reference is

Another Japanese form closely related to haiku is tanka. This is also syllable-based, with five lines instead of three, with a larger syllable count. A count of 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 7 is the long version, but an abbreviated version of 2 / 3 / 2 / 3 / 3 is also acceptable. The content also usually has to do with nature, but also strong emotions and first impressions. Complex, myriad feelings expressed in a simple form is one of the key features of Japanese poetry, “a suggestiveness felt beyond the words” ( .

For more Japanese poetry, try or

 For those interested in farm stuff, spring has sprung and we're busier than ever. Fences going down and going up, steers to market. Got a nice steer check the other day yey! The cows are flytagged and ready to go to pasture as soon as the grass grows a little more. One steer got hurt the other day, got his shoulder dislocated or broke going through a doorway with three big cows. (For the record, 3,500 pounds of cow going through a man door is just ugly.) So we got him dropped off at the butcher today rather than try to nurse him back to health. It's just more humane to put him out of his misery now than make him suffer through the healing process. I wish he hadn't gotten hurt, but the most I can do is give my animals the best life I can and the cleanest, most stress-free death possible. Other than that, the garden is going in bit by bit and the little heifers are trapped in the barn with cute little halters on so I can get them to tie and lead. It makes calving go so much better when the cows are tame, for them and for me. Got the big bull taken back to where he lives and scheduled to pick him up again in October. Very excited about babies coming. This should be a good crop.

Happy Poeting!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Lyric Poetry and the Rockstar Poet of the Middle Ages

The form for today is lyric poetry, especially its origins. Like most poetry, originally it could be set to music and often was. The Greeks had lyric poetry, but until it met courtly love, the form didn’t really get going. Once it did, however, lyric poetry exploded on scene, and a few hundred years later brought us the power ballads and heartbreak country.

The pioneer in lyric poetry in the Middle Ages was rockstar poet William IX of Aquitaine.,_Duke_of_Aquitaine#Poetic_career
William perhaps invented the form and idea of romantic poetry, so we have him and his successive troubadours to blame for our modern shallow, Hollywood version of love.
Granted, as a prolific womanizer he likely used his honeyed tongue (ooh double entendre :p) to get into the pants (under the skirts) of any woman that struck his fancy. However, he did leave quite the legacy to his granddaughter, Eleanor of Aquitaine, mother of Richard the Lion-Hearted and John, called Lackland. See William’s complete works:
See? Poetry has been helping guys get laid for the last 900 years! :) As one of the first troubadours, hopefully it worked better for Willy than the wrong Steve (see yesterday’s blog). And if it didn’t, William was still one of the most powerful lords of his day. If his lyrics failed, he could always use the “Hey, did you know I own, like, most of what will someday be France?” to pick up girls in a bar.

Lyric poetry has less to do with form and more to do with content. The Middle Ages saw the advent of the age of idyllic courtly love, and even today lyric poems have less to do with telling a story than exploring the poet’s mind, perceptions, and feelings, dealing deeply with the author’s own point of view and feelings. Love alone isn’t the only topic for a lyric poem. Grief, loss, war, nostalgia, peace, nature, and other large ideas can compose the content of this type of poem. Sonnets, Petrarchan and Shakespearean; rhymed or unrhymed; sung to music or read; even rap lyrics can be called lyric poetry, or poetry with a beat. It’s basically what most of us think of when we hear the word “poetry.”

Saturday, April 24, 2010

New York Times Poetry, Sex-not-poetry, and the Sestina

I’ve started exploring the New York Times poetry and poets section.
Some good, up-to-date stuff. There’s also an article on how to celebrate poetry month, and Craigslist as poetry.

Yeah, Craigslist. You read that right.

There’s book reviews, poet obits, and all that. Fun stuff.

Wrong Steve - Sex Not Poetry!
Uploaded by BadDateTV. - Classic TV and last night's shows, online.

Sucks to be this guy.

Okay, form. Today’s form is the rather typical sestina. It’s French in origin, a 39-line poem with specific end-line words, six of them, that recombine to form a pattern. All lines should be similar in length.

So the schematic looks like this:

A picture, or in this case the picture of a poem, is worth a thousand words.

Six Words
by Lloyd Schwartz





never . . .


yes no
maybe sometimes
always never.

And for fun, here is a sestina generator.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Limericks and Stone Cold Steve Austin Reads Poetry

In honor of the milkers’ night out we had last night, here’s why April is the drunkest month. Enjoy!

And the form-of-the-day is the limerick, since all good drinking bouts usually result in dirty limericks. You know how it goes, five lines, abbbaa rhyme scheme, three stresses in lines1, 2, and 5, two stresses in lines 3 and 4, nine syllables in the long lines, six in the short ones. For more on limericks, try And for those like me with their minds in the gutter, try

Thursday, April 22, 2010

On Poetry and Dada poems

Obviously I’ve been thinking about poetry a lot this month. I haven’t been this immersed in the form since college and I’ve found it, surprisingly, rather pleasant. I even find myself reaching for poetry anthologies at odd moments and reading Thomas Gray and William Blake instead of Theodore Roethke and Federico Garcia Lorca. So the immersion in all this poetry, along with analysis of form, has led to me to a crucial question:

Where has the poetry gone?

Poetry and literature used to be the stuff of life. Now, reading at all feels like an accomplishment, despite the fact that we live in the most word-prolific age in human history. Email, test messages, advertising, we’re reading all the time. No longer are words locked up in some musty monk guarded library word-hoard, but rather than embrace the words, we scoff at them.

In the course of my researching various forms for poetry month, I stumbled across the link between song and poetry over and over again. And I can’t help but muse on how music remains so popular, so piped into our heads 24/7, while poetry has faded in the hands of a select few. Taking that thought one step further and looking at the social aspects of music, everyone can quote a line or two from a song, making reference to it, and then share a bond with the other person who recognizes the song. Who intentionally quotes poetry? Where is the social aspect of poetry now? And I can’t help but think that’s the entire problem. Poetry went from being an active, interactive, social, communal affair, in recitals and concerts or readings, to drawing the eyes downward, down onto the page, isolating the words in the mind of the reader and slowly taking the reader away from society to focus on those verses, rather than keep them active among friends and peers. I’ve heard some Shakespeare scholars argue that reading the plays is actually quite tedious and not a very fun away to experience Shakespeare. And he’s the master of language! But, language is meant to be heard, not just observed frozen and stilted on the page. Somehow I feel much is the same with other kinds of poetry, the words are meant to be shared, not help alone in a private word-hoard.

So what is the solution? Poetry will probably never hold the same place in society as it once did, but how can we as individuals change poetic image for the modern day? Three things, in my non-poet opinion.

1) Poetry slams and readings. Get out there, share your work, listen to the work of others. Inspire each other, help each other. Have fun. Make poetry social again.

2) Give poetry a new image. Yeah, Keats and Donne and Shakespeare have their place but they wrote for audiences. They wrote to make money. So does Stephen King and Nora Roberts. Write what you like but write for the audience. Write about modern issues, not just romantic nature poems. We have enough of those. Write about the economy or a Democratic government. Poets are the voice. Use yours.

3) Read poetry. Write poetry. If you have an interest in poetry, work to make it a part of your life.

So, speaking of form, here’s one for today. Dada poetry dates back to World War I, bringing poetry and visual arts together as an anti-bourgeois, anti-war, and anarchistic movement. Dada poetry was performed at rallies, public gatherings, in literary journals, etc. It was a public form of expression of dissatisfaction with the status quo. /http://en.wikipedia.orgwiki/Dada

A Dada poem is made in three steps. First, cut words or blocks of words from magazines or other printed materials. Second, mix them together in a hat, bowl, or just scatter them across the floor. Third, randomly select the pieces and, in order of selection, lay them out on a page. Don’t change the order, but feel free to arrange line breaks and punctuation as you go. Sense is not the name of the game here and the results probably won’t make sense. The original intent of the Dada movement was to illustrate the chaos and meaninglessness of everyday life. For a cool Dada generator, go here:

Here’s a few more resources on Dada poetry. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Never Work a Shift in Rubber Knee Boots that Don’t Fit.

I think the title says it all.

Haven’t done forms for awhile, so today we have two Spanish forms, the Cancione (not to be confused with the canzone, or the calzone for that matter, completely different) and the Lira.

First of all, the cancione is based on the nonce form. What is this nonce form? you ask. Well, I’m glad you did. There’s an explanation of it at, basically explaining that all forms were once nonce forms. How can that be? You ask. Well, I’m glad you did because its actually quite interesting. The nonce form is not free verse. To be a nonce poem, the poem must have structure, a distinctive rhyme scheme, meter, and form. Sound familiar? It should, most poem types we’ve covered this month have certain specific elements to them that mark them as one form or another. Except free verse, but that’s in a class all by itself. So, once upon a time, some guy kept going abab cdcd efef gg in iambic pentameter. It became recognized as a form and even got a name, the sonnet. So all forms begin as nonce forms, it’s just a matter of which ones get picked up and used and which don’t.

So the cancione as a nonce form isn’t popular yet, but it does have set rules for meter. To write a cancione, use seven and eleven syllable lines, or heptasyllable (7) and hendesyllable (11) lines. That’s it. I couldn’t fine much reference to the cancione on the web, but the cancion is mentioned on Wikipedia .

Now the lira. It’s a five-line form with special attention to syllable count and an ababb rhyme scheme. The syllable count and rhyme look like this:
For an example, try This isn’t my poem and all credit goes to the Italian Stallion, as indicated.

The same site has a fun rhymer tool. Try it out at

So that’s it for Spanish poetry. We’re in the downward trend on poetry month. I’ve had a lot of fun, I don’t know about you. I’ve still got some stuff up my sleeve with poets reading poetry and poets who pioneered one form or another, especially love, with focus on courtly love, in poetry. But in the days we have left, if there’s anything you’d like to see more of, less of, or bring up for the first time, leave a comment and be sure to check back for a response. Later days.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Taco Tuesday

Working a double today so it's short and sweet again on the blogosphere. I was always interested in Ai while in college, but I never read much of her, mostly because the library didn't carry her work more than me not taking time for it. While cruising the New York Times poetry section, I stumbled on her obit page. Seems a little odd to include it since I've barely read her work and there's lots of other poets to cover. But I've always been drawn to the brutality in her work that manages to stay beautiful at the same time. Maybe this will finally get me to pick up a copy.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Even Poets Think Poetry Is Hard...

...but like most writers seem to find that they can't not do it.

This is an interview with C.K. Williams on

Here's another link to a larger portion of the same interview. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

I’m lazy :)

Why poetry and pop are not such strange bedfellows

What is it about Yeats that is so attractive to rock stars, and why does Auden have the crowd moshing at the Forum? Graeme Thomson meets the musicians turning poetry into pop

By Graeme Thomson

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Inspiration and Motivation

Let’s shake things up a little bit today. We’ve been studying forms for over two weeks now, and I don’t know about you, but my eyes are crossing. Instead, let’s focus on two other important aspects of poetry: motivation and inspiration.

Why write poetry? Why read poetry for that matter? Why the hell should I care?

That’s the crux of any type of writing, the reader wants to know why the hell I should care? Why does this piece of writing warrant my attention more than my spouse/kids/job/house/Ax Men marathon. It’s a legitimate question and one writers should always be asking themselves. Why should my reader care about what I’m writing? How to do I get them emotionally invested and as passionate or interesting in my topic as I am? Because if the reader isn’t interested, especially in this day and age, they’re going to flip to the Xbox or Dirty Jobs on the TiVo faster than the coyote gets smashed by an ACME safe.

Let’s break it down.

First, you, the author, has to care about what you’re writing. If you don’t care, the audience won’t care and that spells coyote hanging out over open space, holding up an OOPS! sign before he plows into the ground, leaving a coyote-shaped imprint for the roadrunner to be-beep! over.

Second, the material can’t matter only to you. For instance, I could write about all my horrible breakups, getting real specific about who, what, where, why, and how. But why would a reader care about that? I’m whining about my own love troubles and, frankly, no one really gives a shit about anything that doesn’t apply to them. The solution? Get over yourself. Ruthlessly mine your own experiences and look for the common thread. Everybody’s been dumped. What’s the universal in that? The pain, the feelings of inadequacy, the tears, rage, etc. So find the things in your interests that everyone’s experienced, connecting your experiences and theirs, to create an emotional link. It sounds easy, when actually it’s quite complicated. There’s no magical formula that I can give you that will instantly create that link between your writing and the reader’s emotions. All I can say is practice. Read voraciously, write extensively, and when you recognize the times where writing tweaks at your heart strings, analyze it intensively and practice implementing it in your own work.

Third, kind of got off track, but getting back to why should I care, if you don’t like poetry, aren’t interested in poetry, would rather have exploratory rectal surgery than sit through the shortest poem ever ("I" by Ghigna, for those who are curious), I’m not sure why you’re reading this in the first place. I’m the first person to admit that I don’t like/don’t understand/don’t have time for poetry. But one thing I’ve learned this month is that poetry has a life all of its own. It’s everywhere. The fundamentals of music are based on rhythm and meter and music, it could be argued, is a major component of the American lifestyle. IPods and MP3 players are everywhere, making personalized playlists portable more than ever before. Essentially, people are carrying poetry with them everywhere. Poetry isn’t just about reading dead white guys; it’s an expression, a protest, an expression of appreciation, an ode, a way of showing love. So yeah, its hard, its tedious at times, it takes away from valuable YouTube time, but I guess my overall point is that people have been making poetry for thousands of years, many religious works began as poems, so poetry is everywhere, in all of us and when we ask why we should care, it’s more of a matter that we already do. The real challenge of poetry is not in finding it, but in taking the time to intelligently pursue it, analyze it, internalize it, and turn it around, let it loose, make it our own.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Leaving Italy: The Terza Rima

The Terza Rima is a classic Italian form, made famous by Dante in his Divine Comedy. It’s a highly syllabic form, which makes it easier to write in Italian than English, or so I heard in college, since Italian and similar Romantic languages have more rhyming words than our mish-meshed English.

Terza rima is written in iambic tercets, meaning a three-line grouping with a unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable (looks like xX; or, oh SHIT, not OH shit, with the emphasis on the second syllable). It can be iambic pentameter, but in my opinion, since that’s more famously an English form (thank Shakespeare), it’s not strictly essential. The rhyme scheme is supposed to interlock, looking like aba bcb cdc and so forth as long as you want. Hey, Dante wrote an entire freaking book that way. Apparently, you can end the poem with a couplet, but, again, nothing strict on this. Another source,, asserts that the ending can look like this: xyx yzy z. Personally, I like that one, but its open. If a couplet works better, use it. For more on the terza rima, check out

The terza rima sonnet is a fourteen-line version, sort of a cross between the English sonnet and the terza rima. This would lend itself more to iambic pentameter, if one were so inclined. Also called the diaspora sonnet, the same meter (ohSHIT) applies, as does the stanza length, as in the longer big sister terza rima. All that changes is the length, so the complete rhyme scheme looks like: aba bcb cdc ded ee.

In contrast, the Italian or Petrarchan Sonnet has a rhyme scheme of abbaabba cdecde, while the English or Shakespearean sonnet looks like abab cdcd efef gg, so the terza rima sonnet is like the love child of the English sonnet and big sister terza rima. Can’t wait to see what happens if the terza rima and infinite gloss ever fool around. On the other hand… (fierce shudder.)

Happy poeting.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Italian Poetry Again: The Barzelletta

Another Italian form, the barzelletta began in the fifteenth and sixteenth century with a group called the frottola composers. The form precedes the madrigal and likely descends from the ballata, a fourteenth-century poetic form. As the frottola became the barzelletta, the difference in the forms occurred when lessons began to be inserted into the form.

The barzelletta form isn’t a set form. To see the full argument on PoetryBase, go here: The frottala was a kind of carnival song with irregular meter and rhyme so that theme has carried over into the barzelletta. It can have lines of seven or eight, even up to twelve, syllable lines written as couplets, or can be in blank verse with pentameter or hexameter syllables. It can rhyme or not, be full of poetic device, internal rhyme, etc. A more formal version of barzelletta can have a set rhyme scheme with a ripresa (reprise) of abba, and a stanza of cdcdda or cdcddeea, although massive variation exists on this rhyme scheme. (Seems to be a poetic theme, doesn’t it?) The stanzas are usually two lines in length and continue as in the above rhyme scheme.

For an example of the barzelletta, I went to Type that four times fast. This is a simple barzelletta and the site says it should have “lines of even length and simple, unvarying rhyme scheme.” This suggestion comes from the online book Musical humanism and its legacy: essays in honor of Claude V. Palisca by Claude V. Palisca, Nancy Kovaleff Baker, and Barbara Russano Hanning. Find it at

Barzelletta – Author Unknown

L’amor donna ch’io te porto
Volentier voria scoprire
E’l mio affanno voira dire
Che per te sempre suporto
L’amor donna ch’io te porto
Volentier voria scoprire.

Non me fido a mandar messo
Per che temo esser gabato
S’io te passo per apresso
Tut e volti in altro lato.

The love, my lady, that I bear you
I would gladly disclose,
And my anguish I would tell
Which I always suffer because of you.
The love, my lady, that I bear you
I would gladly disclose.

I dare not send a messenger,
For I fear to be deceived.
If I pass close to you
You turn away.

So yeah, not real fun today. On the up side, I’m only spending one more day on Italian poetry and then we get on to a healthy mix of Spanish, Portuguese, French, and other forms; Dada poetry; some classic forms like the sonnet and sestina; and, maybe, if time permits, some focus on the poets themselves, focusing on their inspiration and motivation, their unique approach to poetry, and whatever other fun facts come up.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Italian Poetry Continues: The Madrigal

A madrigal is close to a canzone. The form originated in the Renaissance and early Baroque periods (really sound cool now, don’t I? Somehow throwing the word ‘Baroque’ around adds professor-ism, so cool), and started as secular form, set to music. The music was written to underline the sentiment behind each line of text in the poem. The madrigal took on various aspects of other types of poems, and one type of madrigal eventually developed into the aria and into the opera. or (If I’m lying, blame Wikipedia.) Love is usually the theme or topic of a madrigal.

So nuts and bolts of the form. Lines consists of seven or eight syllables and come in sets of triplets, three line stanzas. These triplet stanzas usually run with two or three per poem, followed by one or two rhyming couplets. Here’s a sample rhyme schematic: aba bcb cdc dd ee, though the triplets have no set rhyme scheme.

Apparently, the best example of the form is poet William Drummond of Hawthornden (1585–1649). Here is one of his madrigals:

Madrigal: My Thoughts Hold Mortal Strife
William Drummond (of Hawthornden)

My thoughts hold mortal strife,
I do detest my life,
And with lamenting cries,
Peace to my soul to bring,
Oft calls that prince which here doth monarchize;
But he, grim-grinning king,
Who caitiffs scorns and doth the blest surprise,
Late having deck'd with beauty's rose his tomb,
Disdains to crop a weed, and will not come.

Curious about what a madrigal sounds like?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Italian Poetry: The Canzone

The canzone is an Italian poetic form, along with canzone II. This week is devoted to Italian poetry, at least for now, so get used to it. :p

The canzone it a type of ballad, originating in the Provencal region of Italy. It’s typically closer to song lyrics and originated in the Middle Ages, meant to be recited to music. Dante and Petrarch utilized the form and helped make it popular. The most famous example, according to Wikipedia, so take this with a grain of salt or six, is “Voi che sapete” by Mozart.

The form itself has seven to eleven syllables per line with seven to twenty lines per stanza, with anything from one to seven stanzas per poem. It’s called similar to a sonnet on one website, , only easier to write. Another example of the form, this one by Dante. Dante’s rhyme scheme is quite complicated, but you can use whatever you like, even rhyming couplets. Webexibits also has a great explanation of how to layout the poem, define the subject, address the theme, etc. But if you don’t like that, the other suggestion comes from my combination of PoetryBase and Wikipedia. Together, those seem to indicate that the first two stanzas are usually similar in rhyme scheme, while the third is different, and the form usually addresses itself to someone, usually illustrious, but I assume this isn’t necessary. There is no set stanza structure, but, that said, the stanzas should have a pattern of similarity or dissimilarity. In the third stanza, the poem usually closes with a farewell of some kind.

The canzone II has five verses of twelve lines, each line with seven to eleven syllables, with a five line coda, or sixty-five lines. A coda is just a fancy way of saying ending, a way of wrapping up the poem. The rhyme scheme, however, is far more complex. It looks like this:

The rhyme scheme looks to be based on Dante’s work, so read the work, know the rules, and then feel free to break them.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Lazy Blogger Day

In a nod to the keynote speaker at Rally of Writers in Lansing this weekend, Thomas Lynch, here’s a sample of one of his poems from Poetry Foundation.

For the Ex-Wife on the Occasion of Her Birthday
by Thomas P. Lynch

Let me say outright that I bear you no
unusual malice anymore. Nor
do I wish for you tumors or loose stools,
blood in your urine, oozings from any orifice.
The list is endless of those ills I do not pray befall you:  
night sweats, occasional itching, PMS,
fits, starts, ticks, boils, bad vibes, vaginal odors,  
emotional upheavals or hormonal disorders;
green discharges, lumps, growths, nor tell-tale signs of gray;  
dry heaves, hiccups, heartbreaks, fallen ovaries  
nor cramps—before, during, or after. I pray you only  
laughter in the face of your mortality
and freedom from the ravages of middle age:
bummers, boredom, cellulite, toxic shock and pregnancies;  
migraines, glandular problems, the growth of facial hair,  
sagging breasts, bladder infections, menopausal rage,  
flatulence or overdoses, hot flashes or constant nausea,  
uterine collapse or loss of life or limb or faith  
in the face of what might seem considerable debilities.  
Think of your life not as half-spent but as half-full  
of possibilities. The Arts maybe, or
Music, Modern Dance, or Hard Rock Videos.  
Whatever, this is to say I hereby recant
all former bitterness and proffer only all the best  
in the way of Happy Birthday wishes.
I no longer want your mother committed,
your friends banished, your donkey lovers taken out and shot  
or spayed or dragged behind some Chevrolet of doom.  
I pray you find that space or room or whatever it is  
you and your shrink have always claimed you’d need  
to spread your wings and realize your insuperable potential.
Godspeed is what I say, and good credentials:
what with your background in fashions and aerobics,  
you’d make a fairly bouncy brain surgeon  
or well-dressed astronaut or disc jockey.  
The children and I will be watching with interest  
and wouldn’t mind a note from time to time  
to say you’ve overcome all obstacles this time;  
overcome your own half-hearted upbringing,  
a skimpy wardrobe, your lowly self-esteem,  
the oppression of women and dismal horoscopes;  
overcome an overly dependent personality,  
stretch marks, self-doubt, a bad appendix scar,
the best years of your life misspent on wifing and mothering.
So let us know exactly how you are once
you have triumphed, after all. Poised and ready  
on the brink of, shall we say, your middle years,
send word when you have gained by the luck of the draw,
the kindness of strangers, or by dint of will itself  
if not great fame then self-sufficiency.
Really, now that I’ve my hard-won riddance of you  
signed and sealed and cooling on the books against  
your banks and creditors; now that I no  
longer need endure your whining discontent,  
your daylong, nightlong carping over lost youth,  
bum luck, spilt milk, what you might have been,  
or pining not so quietly for a new life in  
New York with new men; now that I have been  
more or less officially relieved of
all those hapless duties husbanding
a woman of your disenchantments came to be,  
I bid you No Deposits, No Returns,
but otherwise a very Happy Birthday.
And while this mayn’t sound exactly like good will  
in some important ways it could be worse.  
The ancients in my family had a way with words  
and overzealous habits of revenge
whereby the likes of you were turned to birds  
and made to nest among the mounds of dung  
that rose up in the wake of cattle herds
grazing their way across those bygone parishes  
where all that ever came with age was wisdom.

Thomas Lynch, “For the Ex-Wife on the Occasion of Her Birthday” from Skating With Heather Grace. Copyright © 1986 by Thomas Lynch. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Five Easy Forms

I’m fairly sick of complex forms by now, so here’s some easier prompts from

1) The ABC poem. It’s composed of five lines. The first four lines create something, an emotion or feeling, a picture or smell, some kind of sensory appeal, or mood. Use words, phrases, and clauses, with the first word of each line in alphabetical order. The last line can begin with any letter. So actually it’s an ABCD poem. (Joke.) Tt looks like this:

Ax got home from work one night and
Began screaming. Dirty dishes everywhere,
Crusted food and broken glass.
Dirty dishes make her nuts…
Be glad she left the cattle hobbles and kick bar at work!

2) The Burlesque poem. This form can be a poem, but also can be treated as a story, play, or essay. The important part is that it takes a serious subject and treats it ridiculously or is set up as a serious thing and ends up as simply a trivial story. Try for examples.

3) The Name poem. Take someone’s name and write it in a column.
Then use the letter to prompt the first word of each line. (Bonus points for someone who can find a good word beginning with X.)

4) The Carpe diem poem. Obviously, Latin phrase meaning "seize the day." This poem, much like the nightsong, evensong, or morning song, laud living, especially living for the day.

5) There is no fifth poem. I’m lazy.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


More an ending to a verse, a tail, than an actual form, the bob and wheel can be one accented syllable or a couple metrical feet in length. The bob may work as an enjambment on the last line of the verse or enjamb into the wheel. The wheel is four lines, three metrical feet long. The rhyme scheme is “a baba” and may start to sound repetitious, a chorus of sorts.

The bob and wheel form is related to Adonics and the Sapphic stanza. Adonics is a line that consists of two metrical feet, another device usually used as a tagline. It’s Greek in origin, used in groups of five, so five lines of two feet, plus any verse other than the Adonics tagline.

The Sapphic stanza is similar, also Greek, and made up of three Sapphics and one Adonic line. Spondees can set off trochees in lines 1 and 2. The schematic looks like this:
Xx Xx Xxx Xx Xx
Xx Xx Xxx Xx Xx
Xx Xx Xxx Xx Xx
Xxx Xx

So that’s as clear as mud, I’m sure. This poetry stuff sure gets sticky, doesn’t it?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Infinite Gloss

PoetryBase calls this the ugliest form to create and implement. There’s a lot of math involved and I’m sort of math challenged so we’ll see how this works. The poems gloss each other. PoetryBase explains it like this, “six lines, three a rhymes and three b rhymes, and you want to create an infinite gloss in envelop tercets.”


Tercets are three lines, usually a complete poem. In this case, the tercets envelope, or lock together. Up to 36 tercets can be put together, based on a rhyme scheme and the original six lines. Each tercet line links to a glossing tercet. There’s at least 108 connection possibilities and the reader has to be able to recognize the link.

The combinations are endless, one of the strengths of this form, but it’s also big and hard to implement. I couldn’t find much information on the infinite gloss outside of PoetryBase, so exploit their entry further if you want to attempt this form. I probably won’t be, but don’t let my fear stop you. :)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Glose form

A glose, or glosa, originated in Spain and Portugal. It works like a conversation, one poem with two perspectives, even two separate authors. The first half, the texte or cabeza, is written from one perspective and sets the poem’s theme. This part of the poem can quote or paraphrase work from a well-known poem or poet, though writing your own is perfectly acceptable. Quoting or paraphrasing serves as a homage to a respected poet, using their words to amplify your own. Some warn to select a poet and their words carefully, something where you complement one another, not allowing their work to overshadow your own.

The second part, the glose or glosa, explains the first part, expanding the initial argument, so to speak. It’s written like an ode, one stanza per line of texte. Each stanza expands on the corresponding line of texte, ending with a repetition of the corresponding line.

A double glose takes the texte portion and uses each line in the texte twice in the poem, so, basically, double the fun. There seems to be quite a few variations on the glose, so do some research of your own. The glose is related to the sonnet form, with the sonnet being the basis, fourteen lines, that can be used over and over, expanded into a glose.

And tomorrow, get ready for the infinite glose. That’s just plain trippy.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Catalogue Poem

Today’s poem of the poetry challenge is called a bestiary or catalogue poem. A catalogue poem tends more toward prose than verse, listing a catalogue of things, thus the term catalogue poem. A bestiary is a type of catalogue poem, usually listing fantastic beasts, dragons, demons, unicorns, and other beasties, and was popular in the Middle Ages in illustrated volumes that outlined natural, and unnatural, history. A catalogue poem is based on anaphora, a poetic device that calls for repetition of structure, which basically means a certain phrase, theme, or line is repeated. Neither have to rhyme and there’s no rule about length.

Weird weather here in Michigan. Tornado warnings yesterday and the temperature alternated from cold to muggy all day. Spent most of the day in the parlor. Guy I was milking with was on his fourth shift in a row, so pretty slaphappy after 20 of 24 hours in the cow barn and only an hour and a half of sleep. FYI: two five-hour energy drinks do not equal ten-hours of sleep.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

F-f-f-free verse!

Okay, I’m tired today and feeling pretty basic after all the form poems. So today I’m giving everyone, including me, a break. Cows didn’t give me much of a break today, but that’s a whole other issue.

The form of today’s poem in the April Poetry Challenge is free verse. There’s no set structure, no meter, no rhyme scheme, no rules whatsoever really. A free verse poem can also be called a prose poem and usually is recognizable as a poem due to its line phrasing, prose composed in the form of lines rather than paragraphs and sentences. has more on the prose poem.

Here’s an example of free verse by poet Nikki Giovanni. Enjoy. I’m out.

Winter Poem – Nikki Giovanni

once a snowflake fell
on my brow and i loved
it so much and i kissed
it and it was happy and called its cousins
and brothers and a web
of snow engulfed me then
i reached to love them all
and i squeezed them and they became
a spring rain and i stood perfectly
still and was a flower

Monday, April 5, 2010

Awl what?

An awdl gywydd (double dd’s make a “th” sound) is a Welsh form of poetry. It’s pronounced owdl gow-widd, or at least that’s the closest my non-Welsh speaking talent can get it.“Awdl” means ode and when I figure out what gywydd means, I’ll let you know. Unless we have some Welsh speakers among the readers, which feel free to correct my dumb American ass. :p

The stanzas are quatrains, meaning four lines to a stanza. Each line has seven syllables with end rhyme and couplet binding. So it looks like this:

* * * * * * A
* * A * * * B (A could shift to 3rd or 4th syllable)
* * * * * * C
* * C * * * B (B could shift to 3rd or 4th syllable)

Guidelines: Mid-line rhymes can be half- or off-rhyme, using various elements of consonance and assonance, but the main rhyme (B) should be perfect.

Hey, I don’t make the rules.

Again, this was from PoetryBase, but Celtic Poetry offers lots of good stuff.

There’s a ton of Welsh poetic forms out there and while I haven’t read much Welsh poetry, I’ve liked what I have read, if that’s any endorsement. At risk of starting to sound like an advertiser for PoetryBase, at their page they have a function to search poetic forms by origin and again, Celtic Poetry offers a wealth of resources for Welsh forms. Maybe I’ll try to branch out tomorrow and do sestinas or something. But anyone can do a sonnet. How fun is it to work with a form you can’t pronounce? (I just became a geek, didn’t I?) Oh well.

Happy poeting.